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Supreme Court of Kansas: Lower Court Did Not Have Authority to Revoke Probation Without a Warrant

by David M. Reutter

On January 28, 2022, the Supreme Court of Kansas held that a state court has no authority to revoke and remand a state probationer to prison except by an action that is timely initiated with a warrant or notice to appear. Since the proceedings against probationer Tremayne M. Darkis ensued via notice from his intensive supervision officer (ISO), the court lacked authority to require him to serve his prison sentence.

Darkis pleaded no-contest to marijuana possession and began a 12-month probation term on October 9, 2018, after the Montgomery County District Court suspended his 30-month prison sentence. Just more than a week after that probation term ended in October 2019, his ISO filed an arrest and detain notice, along with an affidavit in support that stated Darkis had violated his probation when he was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and didn’t report to his ISO after his release from federal custody, among other failures.

After his arrest, the district court held a hearing, where Darkis addressed the ISO’s arguments. Yes, he was arrested in April 2019, he said, but the charge was dropped. Then he was taken into federal custody in Louisiana two weeks later and not released until mid-June 2019. Preoccupied with affairs in Louisiana, he added, he really wasn’t thinking about reporting to his ISO in Kansas. But that didn’t make him an absconder.

The district court sided with the ISO and ordered Darkis to prison. He appealed, arguing the district court lacked jurisdiction because the ISO failed to file the arrest and detain notice during his probation term. But the Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that under K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 22-3716(a), a district court has authority to revoke and remand a criminal defendant to prison through proceedings initiated within 30 days after the period of probation has expired. However, it agreed with Darkis that there was no proof he absconded or committed a new crime.

Aided by attorney James M. Latta of the Kansas Appellate Defender Office, Darkis then turned to the state Supreme Court, which began by noting that under the relevant statute, a “court may act when the defendant is serving a non-prison sanction”—here probation—“or as allowed” by other subsections of the law. An ISO may also issue an arrest and detain notice under those subsections, but Darkis’ ISO had no time extension granted and, more importantly, he did not obtain a warrant for Darkis’ arrest.

The language of K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 22-3716(e) is clear, the justices held, that “[t]he court shall have 30 days following the date the probation…was to end [within which] to issue a warrant for the arrest or notice to appear for the defendant to answer a charge of a violation of the conditions of probation…”

“Unlike subsection (a), subsection (e) makes no mention of a court services officer or a community correctional officer arresting a defendant without a warrant or issuing a written or verbal statement authorizing another officer with arrest powers to arrest the defendant,” the Court continued. “For the [lower] court to have authority, the process for a warrant or a notice to appear must have been used.”

Since no action was taken within 30 days to initiate court action, the district court “acted without authority in revoking Darkis’ probation and sending him to prison,” the Court concluded. Thus the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the district court were reversed. See: State v. Darkis, 314 Kan. 809 (2022). 

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Related legal case

State v. Darkis